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Anonymous (eleventh century, second half)

 
 

Obverse

St Nicholas standing, holding a small cross in his right hand and a gospel book in his left. Inscription in two columns: ||ΙΚ|Ο|. : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Νικό[λαος]. Border of dots.

Reverse

St George "the Swift" standing, in military costume, holding a lance in his right hand and supporting a shield on the ground with his left. Inscription in two columns: ̣|.|Ε̣ – |ΓΟ|Ρ|Γ, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) [Γ]ε(ώργιος) ὡ Γοργ(ός). Border of dots. 

Obverse

St Nicholas standing, holding a small cross in his right hand and a gospel book in his left. Inscription in two columns: ||ΙΚ|Ο|. : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Νικό[λαος]. Border of dots.

Reverse

St George "the Swift" standing, in military costume, holding a lance in his right hand and supporting a shield on the ground with his left. Inscription in two columns: ̣|.|Ε̣ – |ΓΟ|Ρ|Γ, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) [Γ]ε(ώργιος) ὡ Γοργ(ός). Border of dots. 

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3525
Diameter 19.0 mm; field: 14.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 15.24. 

Credit Line Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Thomas Whittemore.

Commentary

On seals, George is rarely accompanied by epithets. If this epithet Gorgos is correct, then it is a rare sphragistic example for the saint. Among 730 seals bearing an image of Saint George among the published collections, there are three examples of Saint George Diasorites (Schlumberger, Sigillographie, 672, no. 1; Koltsida-Makre,  Ὀρφανίδη-Νικολαΐδη, no. 14 [although the correct reading of the epithet is provided by Wassiliou, “Ὁ Ἅγιος Γεώργιος ὁ Δασορίτης,” 416-424 ] and Jordanov, Bulgaria 2, no. 26 [repr. as his Bulgaria 3, no. 1812]); three examples of Saint George Kouperiotes (Jordanov, Bulgaria 2, nos. 196a, 318 and idem, Bulgaria 3, no. 261A); one of Saint George Megas Apelates (Jordanov, Bulgaria 1, no. 26.8 [the epithet is suggested by W. Seibt, “Review of Jordanov, Bulgaria, 1,” BZ 98 {2005}, 131 when offering a possible reading of Jordanov’s incomplete rendering of the inscription]); and one as Saint George Tropaiophoros (DOSeals 3, no. 99.12). Diasorites and Kouperiotes are epithets reflecting local cults of the Saint: from Asia Minor and Thrace, respectively. For discussion of these epithets accompanying Saint George on seals, see Wassiliou, “Ὁ Ἅγιος Γεώργιος ὁ Δασορίτης,» 416-424 and eadem, “Der Heilige Georg,” 209-224. For the cult of Saint George Diasorites, see also Demetrokalles, “Ἅγιος Γεώργιος ὁ Διασορίτες,” 39-63.

 

The epithet Γοργός-Gorgos has been applied to Saint George since at least the eleventh century, as evidenced by one other known seal bearing his image issued from that period (see Laurent, Corpus 2, no. 818) and can be found later accompanying the image of the Saint in fourteenth-century frescoes of churches in Thessalonike and Serbia (see Kissas, Τό ιστορικό υπόβαθρο, 86-101, pls. 1, 2a, 2b and 6). During the Byzantine period, the epithet Gorgos was understood as two of the Saint’s characteristics: “swift” or “quick to help;” and his fearsome or victorious aspect as a warrior saint. For discussion of the epithet Gorgos and the cult of Saint George, see Tsolakes, “Ποικίλα,” 479-483; Kissas, Τό ιστορικό υπόβαθρο, 86-101 and Katsaros, “Άγιος Γεώργιος ο Γοργός,” 505-519. See also Drpić, Epigram, 353.

 

If the epithet Γοργός-«Swift» is correct, then it is likened to one of the epithets of the Virign, the Gorgoepekoos, ἡ Γοργοεπήκοος-She Who is Quick to Hear. This Marian epithet can be traced back to at least the eleventh century: see Laurent, ”Une foundation monastique,”32-44. There is also an eleventh/twelfth-century seal with an image of the Virgin Gorgoepekoos: see Lihačev, Molivdovuly, 167-168, no. 7, pl. 69. For a discussion of the Marian epithet, see Themelis, “Αἱ Ἐπωνυμίαι τῆς Παναγίας,” Νέα Σιών 48 (1953), 80-88. For the Constantinopolitan church dedicated to the Virign Gorgoepekoos, see Janin, Églises, 172-173.